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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 16:35 GMT
Gangmaster guilty over 5m racket
Victor Solomka
Victor Solomka was found guilty at King's Lynn Crown Court
A Ukrainian gangmaster - who built a business out of illegal workers - has been convicted of money laundering and conspiring to break immigration laws.

Victor Solomka, 44, of King's Lynn, Norfolk, who arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker four years ago, denied the charges.

However, King's Lynn Crown Court was told he had created a 5m firm using workers who entered the UK illegally.

Sentencing was adjourned to 11 February.

Solomka is thought to have run one of the largest gangmaster operations in the UK supplying illegal workers mainly to fish factories in Scotland.

Victor Solomka

He then laundered the massive profits he made via a number of sham companies to avoid detection.

While an army of more than 700 Eastern European workers were living in cramped accommodation, Solomka was enjoying his 250,000 family home and driving Mercedes cars.

He was found guilty of conspiracy to facilitate the commission of breaches of immigration law and money laundering - charges which each carry a 14-year jail term.

During the four week trial the jury heard that within a year of arriving in Britain in February 2000, a penniless asylum seeker on the back of a lorry, Solomka had set up three companies.

His companies supplied labour to factories who paid 6-6.50 per hour for the workers.

Breaching immigration law

The wages the workers received from Solomka equated to about 4.30 per hour.

In addition the workers had 40 for rent and 10 for transport deducted from their wages.

Prosecutor Rupert Overbury described how Solomka worked with his right-hand man, Russian Alexander Pianzin.

Pianzin, 39, of St Moden's Place, Fraserburgh, Scotland, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to a charge of conspiracy to breach immigration law.

Between 2001 and 2004, Solomka's three companies were paid about 5m for the provision of immigrant workers who came to the UK from countries including Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Moldovia and Lithuania.

The court was told that none of the workers had an automatic right to stay in the UK and many were provided with false Home Office documents which purported to grant them permission to remain.

Overcrowded properties

However, police investigations found that of the 700 staff on the firm's books, 429 had never been registered with the Home Office while just 86 had genuine national insurance numbers allowing them to work in the UK.

While the workers lived in overcrowded properties in Scotland, Solomka by contrast was able to make a 74,000 capital repayment on the mortgage of his home in Gayton Road, King's Lynn.

He frequently visited the bureau de change offices in King's Lynn to change more than 75,000 into euros or dollars and transferred more than 100,000 to other countries in the EU and Eastern Europe.

His personal bank accounts received 152,000 in 2002, 215,000 in 2003 and 153,000 in the first 12 weeks of 2004 before he was arrested in March that year.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
A former employee of Mr Solomka's speaks out



SEE ALSO:
Migrants 'used as forced labour'
03 Feb 05 |  Business


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